tv Astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi Discusses Science and Innovation CSPAN January 20, 2017 1:05pm-2:05pm EST
history tv schedule, go to c-span.org. in astrophysicist who goes by the name gangster nerd spoke to students at westminster college in fulton, missouri. hakeem oluseyi is a professor at the florida institute of technology. he appears on eight tv series on the science channel, discovery channel, and on national geographic. this is about an hour. i'll begin. i'll introduce myself. i'm chris halsey, an analytical chemical industry professor. it is in fact my great pleasure to introduce our next speaker, dr. hakeem oluseyi. growing up in the tougher parts of new orleans, houston, l.a., and mississippi, he and his mother moved around often in the southern united states. he cites early introduction and influence from the sciences from reading specifically the world book encyclopedias, and if you're not familiar with that, i
know we've a younger audience, that's wikipedia without the internet. that's where he was introduced to albert einstein and the theory of relativity. after the short time in the navy, he began his higher educati education, excuse me, earning his bachelors of science in physics and mathematics and a miner chemistry, by the way. a master's degree in physics and ph.d. would follow from stanford. summing it up like that makes it sound easy. in interviews he points out the hardships and rewards for his perseverance, fueled by the drive to silence his doubters. through that perseverance, his resume now includes eight u.s. patents, a professorship in the physics and space sciences at florida institute of technology, being named the chief science officer for discovery communications, you might have seen him from a show called "outrageous acts of science," a research position at mit, and most recently a position at nasa in washington, dc. his research focuses on the development of instrumentation for space-based astronomical
observation. he is most distinguished in the area of expanding and improving science education here and abroad. he is an astrophysicist, a tv host, a voice actor, an industry mercenary who is problem solving across many disciplines, and not just astrophysicists and simply an inspiration. please welcome to the podium dr. hakeem oluseyi. [ applause ] >> thank you for that wonderful introduction. it doesn't happen very often that someone properly pronounces my last name. that's quite an achievement. i would like to thank you all for having me here at westminster college. it's a great honor. i recognize whose footsteps i'm following in. so i would like to thank your president for having me and his wonderful family for hosting me. from what's in the program. i would also like to thank professor rosen and halsey for hosting me. if you look at your program, you
might find that what i'm going to talk about is a bit different from what's in the program. it depends on which program you have. so there is this nice pretty one here, audacious ingenuity, that describes my abstract and what i'm going to discuss. and i wanted to talk about innovation, because that's the theme this week. so i've been able to innovate in the sciences and in education. and so whenever i'm talking to students, right, i want to make it about you, not so much about me, right? and the lessons i've learned and how you can apply them in your own lives. now, when we think about innovation, there is no shortness of innovation in our country. we're a country that maintains a lead in science as well as in economics because of the richness in innovation that occurs here in america. but there's a particular type of innovation i want to talk about that happens in science. that's when you have these big
paradigm shifts, right, when things just change. and this hit me personally, because apparently people like me becoming a well-known scientist is a paradigm shift for some people. there were these articles that were written about me several years ago, and the first article was titled, "rise of a gangster nerd." the second article was titled, "the gangsta physicist." i saw these titles and the first thing i think is, it's not like i'm walking around the lab and intimidating people and robbing them. anymore. [ laughter ] so why are they focused on the past? we don't look at our presidential candidates and call donald trump the wet your diaper presidential candidate, right? we focus on who he is today. and i really didn't understand how this would impact my career either, right? having the title the gangsta physicist. but one thing happened, someone
mentioned -- i talked to students at lunch and someone mentioned to me that they had saw this ted talk on infinity. did you know that talk took place in a prison? yeah. so it turns out that i was invited to go to this prison, you're the only person that the prisoners specifically requested, which was kind of scary. and i didn't understand, why did they want me? and i found out after i gave my talk. i was walking through the prison and on sight, prisoners would recognize me, and the would say, hey, the gangsta physicist. right? for day in prison i was a shot caller. i was the man in prison, i could order people around. they were using the article to inspire these prisoners, they would say, look at this guy,
look at his past, look at his life, you can do this too. the statistics of recidivism in california state prison is really bad, right? for those people who are released from prison, a very high percentage return to prison afterwards, somewhere around 90%. but for those prisoners who receive a minimum of an associates degree, the recidivism rate fell to 6%, from 90 to 6. so they were using this article and the anti-recidivism coalition to help these prisoners with their lives. that's another paradigm shift. when i think about paradigm shifts in physics, there is something going on in the world of physics that's so amazing, i just have to share it with you. you students are the next generation of thinkers. we look at the way we solve problems in physics, sometimes it takes many generations. there is a saying that goes, the grandparents lay the cornerstone and the grandchildren erect the steeple, right?
so here is the foundation that has just been laid. there were a couple of papers published a hundred years ago and they both involve albert einstein. we've come up with this equation, not me. researchers came up with this equation that goes, er equals epr. er is the paper by einstein and rosen that predicted the existence of a wormhole. do you guys know what a wormhole is? a wormhole is when you have a black hole and under certain conditions the black hole can be a portal to another location in time and a space. so you could instantly travel from a location, one location in space to another location that's hundreds or thousands or millions of light-years away. and it sounds like science fiction, and it's incorporated in science fiction. but the laws of physics say this could actually happen. the problem though is these worm holes are very, very unstable. the likelihood of it was really, small, we thought. now, if you're a scientist, one
way that we innovate is through hate. did you catch that? through hate. here is what i mean. there is an example from history, in the 19th century there was a question of how does the process of defraction work. so we knew how reflection works. we knew how refraction works. what is defraction? the most common instance of defraction is when you see oil on the surface of water, you see this rainbow pattern. what is the light doing to make that happen? the french academy of sciences held a contest to solve that problem. a gentleman submitted an essay and that essay relied on the fact that light travels as wave. now, physicists did not think light traveled as a wave. they thought, as isaac newton thought, that light is a series of particles. so he submits his essay, and on this panel as a judge is a
mathematician who says, yeah, this looks elegant but i know it's wrong. what am i going to do? i'm going to take these equations and i'm going to see if they predict anything that i know cannot be true. and he found something. he found that if you were to take a round object, a circular object, and take it into a dark room and cast a light on it, that in the center of the shadow of that object there would be a spot of light. now, that is obviously ridiculous. a shadow is darkest at its center. but also on the panel was an experimentalist. and he said, well, you know, i never thought to do that experiment. let me take a round object into a darkroom, cast a shadow, and see if the spot of light is there. and what do you think he saw? the spot of light was there. so that phenomenon became known as poussaint's spot, because he discovered it in the equations, although he was attempting to hate on the theory, right?
so albert einstein did the same thing. in the early 20th century, quantum mechanics came about, which was very different from his general relativity. he thought, let me look at quantum mechanical system of equations and see if it predicts anything i know cannot be true. he found what he called spooky action at a distance that we today call quantum entanglement. a paper was written by einstein, and rosen and epr. we have this equation, er equals epr. let me explain this quantum entanglement to you. suppose i have a twin. when we're born, we share an existence. we are entangled. and so due to our state of entanglement, whenever one of us is sitting, the other must be standing. and we sit and stand really fast. it happens in like a trillionth
there are people who can measure whether i'm standing or sitting. let's say throughout our lives there are three people observing me and three people observing him and they keep records to a millionth of a second to where each of us is sitting and standing. i decide i'm going to planet earth and going mars. they keep the record. and then i decide i'd like to go 2 million light years away to the galaxy. and they continue to keeps they records. after maybe 50 years the observers get together and they compare their records. and what they see is down to the million of a second that this is held true. whenever one of us was sitting, the other was standing.
how could that be? because in order for me to know when my twin is sitting or standing, or my twin to know when i'm sitting or standing, a signal must traverse between us. so how could it happen instantaneously when we are separated by great distances. because that is what space is. space is what separates here from there. the reason you're seeing me right now and i'm seeing you is because light is traveling between us. i'm not seeing you as you are now, but as you were some tiny fraction of a second ago. so how could they be communicating? so in the '90s, quantum entanglement was measured for the first time and it is a real phenomenon in our universe. and physicists have been trying to get their mind around how could this communication be taking place. but then not long ago, it was recognized that quantum entanglement and worm holes are perhaps the same phenomenon. that is mind-boggling, because in order to create a worm hole,
it takes an incredible amount of energy and mass to do that. these entangled particles are single elementary particles. could they possibly be connected by worm holes? that appears to be the case. that appears to be true. so what does that tell us about the space in which we live? what does that tell us about space at all? so this isn't something that was unforeseen, the science fiction writers had a problem to solve if you are in the starship enterprise on the other side of the galaxy, a thousand light years away or 40,000 light years away, how do you communicate back with earth instantly? and the communication not take 40,000 years, right? well they invented this concept of sub space. are you familiar with that? where are my nerds in here? could the nerd section raise your hand? all right. there is my nerds over there.
so they created sub space communication. so what does this have to do with innovation? well, the theme of the innovation that i'm looking at and considering is looking at the old, but looking at it anew. so these papers existed for 100 years, we know about these two phenomenon and only recently have they been connected. and now this is about to transform how human kind looks at space. how are we going to take advantage of this in the future, what are going to be the new technologies that will take advantage of perhaps this sub space communication. another example that is really similar, when albert einstein came up with his special theory of relativity, we learned that time is not something that is absolute. how time travels -- how time passes to you in comparison to me depends on our relative motion and difference in gravity between us. for example, when you are in space, versus being on the surface of the earth, time moves
more quickly. now when einstein looked at it that way, einstein looked at it and said, well when things move fast, distances get shorter. when things move fast, time passes more slowly. but in the modern times, we have a new interpretation of it. and the new interpretation of it is this -- at all times, everything in the universe moves at the speed of light. so right now, you're moving at the speed of light and i'm moving at the speed of light. do you feel it? no, you don't feel it? here is why you don't feel it. because we are at rest relative to each other in space, we are together moving through space, moving through time at the speed of light. but if one of us was to take off going really fast through space, then because you must move at the speed of light at all times, you must move more slowly through time compared to the rest of us. so the exact equation is, is that the speed of light squared
is equal to your speed through space squared plus your speed through time squared. now here is some consequences of that. how could i take advantage of that? let's do an experiment. have you heard of the twin paradox? so in a twin paradox, it is exactly as i said. i have a twin and one of us leaves earth moving at very high speed, time passes more slowly for the traveling twin, they travel for some time, come back to earth, for them maybe ten years have passed, but on earth maybe a thousand years have passed. and this is a real phenomenon that we measure all of the time in a laboratory. so how could we take advantage of that today? there is one measurement that we wish to make. you've heard that the university is expanding, correct? and so there is many evidences that point to this. but the thing that we have not been able to observe is the universe expanding in realtime. can we see the expansion change?
can i observe the red shift of a galaxy change? what we call z-dot, for example. so imagine the twin experiment done in a different way. so suppose there is is this light that filled all of the universe. and because the universe is expanding, as the universe expands, that light gets stretched out by the exact same amount that the universe expands. well it turns out that exists. we call that light, the cosmic microwave background radiation. so my twin and i measure the wave length, some characteristic wave length of this microwave background radiation. and then the twin goes and travels at a very high speed relative to me. and comes back. and we both measure the wave length again. and so we get what scientists would call delta lambda, the change in the wave length.
but we could also both measure the change in time between those two measurements. so for the twin who stayed home on earth, the time is big. and so for the twin who was traveling in space, the time is small. right? so obviously we measured very different results for how fast that light was changing its wave length. are you with me? yeah. so what does this tell me? this tells me that if i want to do this observation, that physicists are trying to do right now, every day, of observing the changing of this light that fills the universe, or the measurement of a galaxy moving away, then all i have to do is move at a very, very high speed and then i can observe that perhaps in the human lifetime. whereas our current ideas would take much, much longer. so these are deep, very abstract ideas of how we can use innovation. but in my work, as a professor,
i judge these student competitions. and i -- with my role with discovery, i help to judge the discovery 3m young scientist challenge and what i see happening now is students just like yourselves are looking at the technology that has been around you, and saying, how can i repurpose this technology to solve a problem that exists today? but it really depends critically on defining the correct problem. right. so let me give you an example. one problem that people have is safety. so suppose you work late and you have to go out to your parking lot, go out to the parking lot to get in your car at night. right. so if you talk to a police officer, they will tell you that parking lots are very dangerous places. so how do you know that you're going to be safe going to your car? well now cars are equipped with cameras. right, to help you back up. so this student said to me, what if i build an app that will allow you to use your phone to
turn on the cameras around your car to determine if you are safe going to your car at night. right. that is a wonderful innovation. let's take what already exists and let's repurpose it for something to solve a current problem of today. now, another way that we can innovate, when i look at my old life of innovation, as a scientist, as a student, you become an expert in a particular field. you're studying some phenomenon and you become intimate with it. when you become a ph.d student, your first job is to become current in your field. that means that you take everything on your topic that has ever existed and you read every paper you can. especially from all of the top scientists. and now that you know what everyone else has said about it, now it is time for you to -- to add, to contribute to this knowledge, right. it is time for to you give something new. and that is when you receive your ph.d, when you make that new contribution. and so we have a saying that
goes like this. becoming an expert means knowing more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing. right. and it is kind of close to true. but here is something i found. when i was a graduate student, i was studying solar physics. i was studying processes that occur on the surface of the sun. you've seen the pictures of the sun with the plasma loops and the hot x-ray gas and i was on team that took that technology and applied it to observing the sun for the first time. and here i am studying the sun and what is happening there, but when i go to get a job, i don't go to academia, i go to silicon valley. and i go in silicon valley and i'm working on solving this problem of efficiency in making computer chips. so here is what happens. when you make a computer chip, there is many steps.
some steps deposit material on a silicone wafer, some remove material on a silicone wafer and every step you need to know how well it works. because if i had a big giant silicon disk of expensive computer chips, i better make sure i got these processes right or i just lost a ton of money. so what they do is they put in these wafers that are called test wafers and you do the process on that test wafer and then you take it out and you measure to see if the process happened as it was supposed to. all right. and if it didn't, you throw away the wafers. now, at the end of all of the processing, you test certain chips. and every time you test the chip, you destroy that chip. it could not be sold. so there is a lot of waste going on and there is no way to make sure in realtime that you make the process happen properly. you could only tell after the fact whether or not it did. so i step into silicon valley
and i work on a team that wants to address this problem. how can we get rid of the silicon wafers? how can we make sure that every process works as it is supposed to in real-time. and i look at the problem and i say, oh, you know what, in astro physics, we have a way of measuring light that comes from objects, and being able to tell all of these physical characteristics of what is going on inside of that star. think about it. a star, if you ever look at a star through a telescope, it looks exactly like it looks to the naked eye. it is a dot of light. but if you ask an astrophysicist about that star, they will say it has this chemical composition and it is this temperature and moving in this way and this star is this age. how do you know all of that from a spot of light. right? so let me give you the answer and get back to the innovation story. if i were to ask you guys what is matter made of, what would everyone say? atoms, exactly.
everyone knows that. and if i were to ask you, where does light come from, what would you say? speak up or everyone gets an f. the sun. i hear that all of the time. there is no sun in this room but i see a lot of light. where does it come from? what does light come from? well let me give you the simplest answer. it comes from one place. matter makes it. right. matter makes it. every example you could think, matter is making the light. but here is the amazing thing. when matter makes light, the signature of the identity of that matter is encoded in the light and what that matter is doing when it made that light is encoded in the light and if that light travels through space the dynamics of space, whether space is expanding or contracting, is encoded in that light. so, when i had this problem of
trying to figure out what was going on inside of these chambers, i thought, well, look, many of these processes that deposit and remove material, they use plasmas. and plasmas emit light. so all we have to do is monitor this light and we could figure out everything that is going on in real-time and we could make corrections in realtime and problem solved. and you know what happened? guess what my bosses said? oh, that wouldn't work. right. so what i did is i went on ahead and developed the technology any way. and i ended up having a -- we had a performance review at the end of the year. and my manager gave me a less than favorable review. all right. and because i didn't do as i was told and instead i went and developed this new technology. and that new technology resulted in a completely new division of
the company. right. it was very profitable for the company. i got several patents out of that particular technology and i had an argument with my manager in the parking lot about this. and i said to him, i was like, look, you are comparing results with activities and results matter more than activities and he changed my grade and raised it to a very high rating. but the second point in innovation is this, you are going to come across naysayers. you are going to come across haters. hate can be a crucible for creating and innovating or stifle it in its tracks. and we're all humans, a part of the human tapestry and we play different roles. sometimes you are the person in the lab doing the work and intimate with the work and because of that intimacy, you could make the connection between astro physics and
semiconductor manufacturing. i had a graduate student. >> he was working on the problem of how the sun creates the solar wind. how does the sun accelerate particles away from itself given the sun's strong gravity, up to 800 kilometers per second and the highest being solar wind and sometimes 3000 kilometers per second and that would give us an in space propulsion technology that is almost 100 times faster than anything we've perceived of today. i told him, i said, listen, always pay attention to what is going on in areas of science related to what you are doing, but not what you are doing. so he paid attention to plasma experiments in the lab. which are different from an astrophysicist plasma laboratory which happens on the surface of the sun in stars and he realized, look, there is one configuration that the sun uses to create high speed plasmas and now the plasma physicists who do this stuff in the lab have created a technology that would allow us to build what the sun does in a little tiny chamber. we could make it really small.
we could make it really big. and so now that has become a new patented technique for in space propulsion and that is from seeing these relationships and having this intimacy. but here is the thing. one day he came to me, and he said, hey, dr. o., i have this idea. i noticed that the plasma physicists have done this. do you think that maybe we could combine these two ideas and create an in space propulsion technology. at that point, i was in the position of my manager in silicon valley. i could have said, go for it. or you are out of your mind. now being the open-minded guy i am, i said, go for it. what if i had not said that? what if i had told him not to go. you don't know if the person you're talking to is going to be someone who is going to say, well i'll show you, as i did, or if they are going to be someone who is going to say, yeah, i
guess i really am dumb like i thought i was. right. you guys just don't ever laugh a my jokes. i'm never coming back -- well i'm going to come back but make sure to get everybody's name and -- you know, bring the fun students into the talk. listen, guys, i'm making jokes. you have to identify that and laugh at them. that is an important part of the process. so the point here is that in innovation, there is many past innovation, many roles in innovation. when you are the leader, how do you bring innovation out of the people that are working for you and along with you. when you are in the lower role, and you know that you're on to something, but the people above you don't support it. what do you do then? right. my answer is you believe in yourself and you do it any way. and my other answer is that you
have to also believe in others and see it in them. one of my -- and that brings me back to another point. now, this is a warning, a joke is coming up. okay. but it is not really a joke, it is a true story. a couple of weeks ago i was talking to my mother, right. and i was talking to my mother and she was telling me, she's like, you know what, there is something weird that is happening. whenever i talk to some of my old friends that knew you when you were young and i tell them what you are doing now, not the tv stuff but the scientist stuff, they go, him? really? and i say, mom, guy they think that? and they said because you were always joking. you were never serious. people don't think that a person who jokes around a lot could actually be serious, right. and what that reminds me of and what that makes me think of is how we judge each other as human
beings. right. and how -- as i go around this country, as i go around this world, there is one thing that stands out to me. and that is how we are definitely not taking advantage of what we have as human beings. our human capital. there is so many people that could be contributing to this enterprise that just are not. and i've narrowed it down to a couple of things that i think are key. and the first one is identity. so as an example, when i was a young man, at that time, i was a young black man, that was a joke, and i thought the world told me, oh, here is who you are and what you are. so for me, i had to be intimidating. right. i had to be great at basketball. i had to be a ladies' man. and i was all those things. you caught that one without warning. that was good. [ laughter ] all right.
but i didn't see myself in -- as the master of mathematics for example. and i wasn't. and now, as i see people, even as a professor, i've been guilty of this, i had this student who came to me, i'll tell you his name, his name was patrick champion. this guy, he was a big guy, he had a scar across his face and just had this sort of like intimidating demeanor and he is like professor oluseyi, i want to work with you. and i would say, well i don't have any openings, but in my mind, i'm thinking, man, you look scary. and i had him in a class and he was about a c student. and he pursued me and pursued me and i allowed him to join my research group. that undergraduate turned out to be one of the greatest leaders i ever had in my research group. and he taught me a lesson about judging people and what they are capable of. now he's at marshall space flight center in huntsville alabama and building rockets and as graduate student, he's working as a leader, as if he already has a ph.d. so i've gone all across the continent of africa and i've
gone into the slums and i've gone into cape flats, and i see everywhere that there are people who are like me, who thought to themselves, oh, i'm a female, oh, i'm from the slums, i'm a colored, like in south africa, or in -- and because of that, they don't see themselves in the role of the scientist or a person who can even do that science. and that is one of the most amazing things about going on television, that has happened to my life. is because now i go around the country and every day i get recognized by people and there are so many people that are from backgrounds like my own who come up to me and say, man, seeing you on television, when i hear you talk, i get it. and i see that as cool. and i realize that i could do it too. and so many people have told me, because of you, i'm going back to school now. and so that is a type, in my
mind, of social innovation. because you see all of these people who at one time they were living in a paradigm of who is supposed to do this and who can't do this. what i'm supposed to do and what i can't do. and at florida tech these students would joke, and these are the students -- florida tech is really good when it comes to space, sea and sky, right? and so when it comes to the ocean stuff, we wondered, why do so many of the young women go into studying dolphins. what is it about that? right? what is it that makes us think that here is my place and here is this other person's place. you hear -- i was talking to my mother, again i was in silicon valley and when i was in silicon valley, you work in the groups. there was one time i was the only non-korean member of my group and one time i was the only non-chinese member of my group and one time i was the only non-indian member of my group.
so i was telling my mother this and she said something about, oh, yeah, you working with those smart people. and it was the stereotype of asians being scientifically smarter than -- and mathematically smarter. have you heard of that stereo type? do you think it's true? no. trust me, if i was asian, would be saying, yes, it is. and we are better at everything else, too. but the truth of the matter, is that because i had worked with so many people i forgot that stereotype even existed. because it is definitely not true. everybody has the same capabilities. and so identity is one element, but the other element is hierarchy of humanity. that is something that our generation needs to get rid of. we all know the hierarchy. let me ask you a question. you think i'm a nice guy? yeah, i'm the nicest guy in the world. you think i'm dangerous? on the basketball court, but
otherwise, i'm really good. now i can't tell you how many times i'm in an elevator, the elevator door opens and there is a single lady with her kids an the kids start to get on the elevator and the lady stops them. we'll get the next one. these sort of things happen to me all of the time. why is that? because i'm under suspicion. because there is this hierarchy of humanity and we know who is who and who isn't who, but you know what, it is completely bogus, it is completely incorrect. and because of that, people like me, the chances of me not standing here today were so high it's ridiculous. do you know why i'm standing here today? because i couldn't be a bellhop. does that surprise you? i wanted to be a bellhop. let me tell you how this happened. >> i was at college and i thought i wasn't smart enough for college and i dropped out of college. and i was working as a janitor at the ramada renaissance hotel
and i was making $4 an hour and barely making $100 a week. and the bellhop got fired. now a bellhop could make $100 in a day in tips. so i applied for the bellhop position. and the managers looked at me and they said, hakeem the janitor, you are not bellhop material. and i thought to myself, i can't move up from janitor to bellhop? i better go back to college. and i did. and i didn't really understand the power of that story until a few years ago one of my graduate student friends reminded me of that story and he said, when you told me that story, the part i didn't see is that he's like, whoever that manager was, they didn't realize that standing in front of them was really a stanford ph.d physicist, but the way they looked at you and the way that they judge you, you weren't even good enough to be a bellhop in their eyes. and yet, look at who you are and what you are today. right?
and so i say this because we are all a part of this human tapestry and specially us professors. there are people that come into our offices and students and you might think that this person doesn't have it, that person doesn't have it, but that is not our job. we're all in this thing together. when you look at -- when you become an astronomer and astrophysicist, you look at the earth and our species as one whole. and you begin to realize how perilous of a universe we live in and how we need to get ourselves off of this planet, we need to develop technologies and the only way we're going to be successful is if we bring everybody on board. and right now, there are a whole continents of people that are being left behind and that is completely unacceptable, right. we have to do better. so i've gone around, working with students and one thing that i've just done is i'm looking at different ways of educating
people. so outrageous acts of science has been wonderful because in my classrooms i've always used humor and because the students are typically closer to me, they do get my jokes. unlike people in this room. and hubert has been wonderful. hubert has been really wonderful. but also i've learned about experience -- experienceal learning, learning by doing, taking the old and looking at it anew. so for centuries upon centuries, humans learned by doing. and now we're come to point where you sit in a room and you get lectured to. or we give you a piece of technology and we say, go off with this technology and do that. but through games i'm learning that you could really educate students stealthily. and just like outrageous acts of science. i could stealthily teach you. you're having fun, you're laughing.
and you're learning at the same time. and i have a young son and i'm teaching him stuff. he is excellent in math and certain sciences but one thing i thought was really difficult to teach, and that is chemical reactions. chemical reactions are kind of weird, right. and if you are taking general chemistry or organic chemistry, even worse, you know what i'm talking about, right. but i work with this company called dig in games to create a game where we create a fun scenario where you are going to a exo planet in order to save humanity. we have to get humanity off of earth. and we're going to the exo planet but along the way the kids have to solve the games. in case you're wondering, the game is called exo-trex, $5.99. all right. but the game allowed the students to learn through experience. now, i want to say this one last thing that has to do with the hierarchy thing. there is a controversial book called the lucifer principle by
howard bloom. has any heard of that? and it has to do with human evolution and he starts with the question of why do humans do this really crazy awful thing called war? why do we do that? that is a horrible thing. and he said, well, it goes down to a couple of characteristics that humans share with many other species. and one is what we call kinship selection and the other is pecking order, hierarchy. everybody wants to be the top of whatever it is, in classes, in groups, in larger groups, between groups, there is a hierarchy fight and so to be the top, we will kill each other. and so then also in the social sciences, when we look at the prevalence of hierarchy in society, they talk about what is called last place aversion. so you come into a society and there is a hierarchy that preexists and you are new into
the society. what do you do? well, you hate on the bottom of the people -- the people at the bottom of the hierarchy so you yourself are not at the bottom of the hierarchy. and that is a dangerous thing and these hierarchies are different everywhere. i remember when i first left mississippi after being there for middle school, high school and college, and i was at northern arizona university. and it was the sugar ray leonard and tommy hearnes fight. you know those people? and i was sitting in this room, i was in the west, northern arizona university, and i was looking around the room and i was going, wow! look at this! and the reason i felt that way is because it was the united nations in this room. it was people of all races in this room just hanging out as if it was no thing. something that never happened in mississippi. right. i didn't even know that was possible. and yet, here it was right before me.
and so i remember approaching -- there was an interracial couple and that just blew my mind. a black guy and a white -- and i was like, whoa! i asked this girl, i said, you guys would date a black guy? and she's like, yeah. but then she goes, but i wouldn't date an indian, taking about the local navajo indian tribe. and as i've gone around the world, i see that in different societies, there are different hierarchies, different groups of people at the top and the bottom. sometimes it is based on race or religion or sometimes based on ethnicity. and these one social innovation that we need to figure out, i don't have an answer, is how to get rid of these human hierarchies. and it is not until we are able to do that that all of these problems that we're seeing happening in our country right now and this problem that we have that people aren't a part of the enterprise, that people's identifies don't fit into the enterprise, we're not going to solve those problems until we solve that problem.
and so as i said before, there is no shortage of innovation. right. but the real problem is identifying the right problem. and once you identify the right problem, and when humans set their mind to solving problems, we typically find an answer. right? so that is it. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. this is the time for questions. plenty of time for questions so please step to the mike. all at once. >> and remember, you can ask me anything about the universe. >> hi. my name is letitia. i'm from east timor, and i'm
majoring in environmental science. last week we discussed nicholas and we also read about the articles about the physicist con articles about the physicist and i saw your name and i'm pretty curious about the project at -- the one telescope project in africa and the first time when i read that, i questioned -- the question that came to my mind is why you want to, like, distribute those telescopes in every country in africa? >> well, it addresses many things. there is a scientific need. so if science -- the science of astronomy has recently undergone a revolution. what we used to do, you take a telescope and point it at an object that you are interested on taking data on and you take some snapshots of that object. and now we've opened the time domain. so instead of looking at individual objects, you have a telescope that looks at a region of the sky and then it takes an image there and takes an image
of another region and every night it does that over every region, over and over and over again and over years you get a movie of that region of the sky. and in that movie, you could identify objects that change brightness, you could identify objects that move, and in each case, you get a different type of in credibly valuable data. but because this is a new science, the top leading edge projects that did this, like hack net, which is a planet discovering way of telescopes, they are tiny. they are this big. so anybody now could do this science. you don't have to have a giant telescope. now that is the technical feasibility. so i decided to ask myself, so i've been working for over a decade and i partnered with various institutions, the united states state department, the government of the netherlands, the government of kenya and
south africa, the south africa astronomical observation and universities and ngos, to help develop science education and science research in developing nations. and so when you have people engaging in science that did not previously engage in science, it changes their identity. it now becomes something that they own. for example, when you go into a classroom and your professor teaches you newton's laws, you think that professor is newton himself. because that person owns the knowledge. they didn't invent the knowledge but they now own the knowledge. and when anybody owns the knowledge, they become that knowledge. and there is so much that that does within a society. so why is it that if you are in kenya, you are buying a cell phone from some one in norway.
why does it go the other way around. now when we talk about the scientific opportunity, most of our resources are in the northern hemisphere. the northern hemisphere sky compared to the southern hemisphere sky is like comparing a lightning bug to lightning. in the northern hemisphere, the center of the galaxy is never very high above the horizon. in the southern hemisphere, the center of the galaxy is directly overhead. not only that, our two large satellite galaxies, the clouds of maggelan are high in the sky and they are a treasure trove of scientific data. so as a species, as a planet, as a planetary family, we need many, many more telescopes in that southern hemisphere region where there are darker skies and greater opportunities and at the same time we can transform societies.
in fact, my colleague at florida institute of technology dan batchador, he just wrote a book and titled it, he is a british scientist and he titled it "astronomy saves the world" and it addresses how astronomy transforms people and society when they participate. >> thank you for your answer. >> thank you for your wonderful question. yes, sir. >> i'm christian mulla. i'm majoring in computer science. and what do you think about the -- what is it called? sorry. i'm sorry, i -- >> i always make people shy. quantum racer experiment, do you think we'll ever be able to come up with a device that is coming up with something as ridiculous as sending messages back in time? >> oh, that is a good one. can we ever -- so sending
questions -- sending messages forward in time is easy. sending messages backwards in it time -- so here is the thing about this worm hole phenomenon. so the idea that quantum entanglement involves sub space communication opens possibilities because when we talk about a worm hole, you could go in and come out anywhere, but you can also go in and come out any when. right. so there is the possibility that these things that were completely ridiculous, the possibility is now open that maybe it is not so ridiculous. but the thing about science, one of the greatest lessons i learned in my education was the difference between when you know something and when you don't know it. all right. and i could say that to you, and i've never talked to a person who whom i said that and they didn't put themself into the instance, i know the difference of course.
but clearly people, it is a very difficult thing to really grasp. and so even though we write these things down, and there is nothing in the laws of physics that prevent it and there is even this principle called the principle of totalitarianism that any process is not strictly forbidden in nature to occur, must occur. there is evidence that said, well perhaps this could occur. we don't know if it will occur. so what i've seen is that people who say that something is impossible and it hasn't been proven to be impossible, end up looking like idiots in the future. so i'm not going to say it is impossible right now. i'm skeptical of sending messages into the past. but i don't know. right. and i know that i don't know. which makes me know. [ laughter ] that i don't know. if you know what i'm saying.
yes, sir. thank you. >> hi, my name is hallid, i'm a psychology major and i was wondering, the twin paradox, in which you mentioned the twin would stay here and the other traveling in high speeds out in space, the second one would be spending ten years while the first one is spending another thousand years. i was wondering is this process reversible and when the second one comes back, it has been a thousand years, can he go back in time to where his first twin was. >> you can. what you can do is if they change positions, then when the second one gets back, they will be in the same frame. now, they could be the same age. >> right. >> i've never heard anyone come up with that. that is really good. >> interesting. >> catching up with the twin. catching up with the traveling win. you know where i thought you were going, because there is a part of that story that is left out. what makes the one traveling the one that doesn't age very much versus the one that stays here. right? which determines which is which. and the answer is acceleration. right. yeah. >> thanks. >> great question.
thank you. see, psychology, he twisted my mind. >> hello, my name is isaac newberry, my major is environmental studies and i'm from st. louis. >> hi, isaac newton, i mean newberry. >> i got that a lot when i was -- >> i'm sure. >> anyway, i was wondering what exactly are your thoughts on the validity of the nemesis theory. >> an interesting thing. i know well the guy who came up with the nemesis theory, rich muller. and nemesis is kind of dead now. but there is something that replaced it. so if you don't know what the nemesis theory is, so rich muller was the -- his mentor was louie alvarez who are is a noble prize winner and his son was a person who discovered the kt boundary layer, this layer.
and that was a strong piece of evidence that the dinosaurs were wiped out by asteroids. so louie alvarez's son had showed that, look, if you look at the extinction on earth it appears to be a periodic cycle of extinctions that occur every 26 million years. right. the last one was 13 million years ago and then 26 million before that and 26 million before that was the dinosaurs. but that period with more data seems to have disappeared, right. but the nemesis is idea was that, well how could something wipe out life on earth periodically that way. so rich muller said, well what if the sun is a part of a binary star system and the other star is a very small, very dim star like a brown dwarf, and then every so often, perhaps it would pass through the ort cloud, this cloud of comets that surrounds our solar system and it would disturb the orbits of the comets
and some would get expelled from the solar system and some would get sent to the inner solar system and some of those sent to the inner solar system would strike earth and wipe out all life. so nemesis is now dead because it disappeared but people have been studying this ort cloud and the keiper belt before the ort cloud and objects are now being discovered that are kind of large. so there was an object discovered called setna which we thought was larger than pluto until we went to pluto and measures the radius up close and it turns out it is bigger than setna. but in the orbit is an object called biden. not named after our vice president. and why are these two objects in the same orbit or these very similar orbits an other objects were discovered with similar orbital characteristics. what could cause this. the idea is there is a large
object more massive than the earth that we now call planet nine. planet nine has not been confirmed, but there is evidence that suggests that it may be there. but just as we thought we had recently discovered a new particle at the sern -- at the l.a. sea at sern with more data, the signal may disappear. and we don't know. but the idea of having large objects in the outer solar system that are undiscovered is a valid idea. >> thank you. >> great questions. >> this is the final question for dr. oluseyi. >> seriously? [ laughter ] >> hello, i'm cole sailer and i plan on studying both physics and philosophy. i have a question about quantum entanglement. >> yeah. >> and i was wondering, for a while now, since the theory of relativity states that you
got -- data cannot move faster than the speed of light, and since you answered -- okay, i'm misunderstanding there. something along those lines. >> something subtle, but go ahead. >> well your answer was a worm hole. >> right. >> how does a particle go about that? >> right. so the idea -- the speed of light limitation is -- so here is what we have in our universe. if you possess mass, you can never move at the speed of light. if you have no mass, then you must move at the speed of light. nothing can move through space that has mass at the speed of light. there are theoretical particles called tackyons which jump over the speed of light and move faster than the speed of light. now there are some tricks to get around the speed of light. take warp drive. right. so with warp drive, you don't
actually move through space, what you do is you change the shape of space to make it appear that you are moving through space at faster than the speed of light. so warp drive is now a serious concept. so a scientist named al cubia came up with the metric where you could have a spaceship and contract space in front of you, expand space behind you and actually move at 10 times the speed of light through space. and then it was modified by someone named white so it doesn't take as much energy and now it becomes the al cubbia-white concept and there is a lab where they are testing this concept. and so when we talk about the quantum entanglements and worm holes, you are not moving through space. so when us cosmologists think of space not as a 3-d volume but as
a 3-d hyper surface. and so a surface could be bent. so the classic example is, this surface is space, and if i fold space, right, now instead of having to travel this great distance, to go from here to there, if i fold space, i could go from here to there and so it is almost like moving through a different dimension of sorts. right. so it is -- so in warp drive, like what star trek does, you want to get to another side of the room and you bring the carpet toward you and you crumple it and warp it and step over and allow it to expand out behind you and now i took one step and i was on the other side of the room, essentially. but only because i -- i compressed space in that way. and that is the beauty -- man, when i was -- when i was doing my studies, there was another guy who was a philosophy and physics major. and he was from a wealthy family and he never intended to work as a physicist. bu j